Maker Hunt’s AMA with Michael Seibel from Y-Combinator

Michael is a full-time partner at Y-Combinator. Previously, he was a co-founder and CEO of Justin.tv from 2007–2011 and the co-founder and CEO of Socialcam in 2012. During 2012, Socialcam participated in Y Combinator, raised angel financing from a group of amazing investors, and sold to Autodesk Inc. for $60m. We’ll let Michael introduce himself and then you can start with your questions.

Thanks for the intro — thats a pretty good start. I’ve been through YC twice — was a part time partner for 2 years and am now a full time partner. Happy to answer questions on YC or startups in general

Hey Michael! Thanks for doing this! Did it get any easier, the second time — knowing what to expect? — Ben Tossell

Yes! But I was older… so I spent more money and wanted a better lifestyle. So — in the end not sure which is better young and inexperienced vs older but less thrifty

Q. “What are the most desirable qualities YC looks for in applicants, and how does being a single applicant vs. a team of applicants effect selection if both have good ideas?” — Jason

Team is what we look for first — does the team have a technical founder, what is the equity split, how long have they known each other, are they all working full time

To clarify: are they working full time on the project? — Zane Wolfgang Pickett

Yes, exactly Zane

Next thing is the market, is the company going after a billion dollar market. Last is traction — is the team moving fast, have they built something, how close to launch is it

Q. Question around applying to YC as a solo founder… it’s difficult, understandably, but what makes you invest in those solo founders? — Darren J Smith

You know — sometimes solo founders just come off as amazing. You always want to invest in a confident amazing person. With a solo founder you also ask yourself can this person build a great team

Q. Is there a team the partners rejected at YC who then went on to become a hot startup? — Eric Willis

We track our misses very carefully. We consider it a miss if someone applies doesn’t get in and then raises series A or sells. We have very very few misses

This is going to be more general question. As a designer who can’t fully code I’m having a hard time finding a partner. Q: Where is the best place to find partners if you’re a solo founder. — Marko Vuletič

Think about friends, people you went to school with, people you’ve worked with, if nothing hits — then work at a startup and make new friends ☺

Q. Are there any plans to open up more YC locations? Something like China (& Asia in general) comes to mind as a possibly interesting market. Or do you plan on always bringing people to the valley even as YC expands over time? — Jonas Daniels

We think its important to bring people to the bay area. I dont see us opening up other locations

Q. Does it matter if founders apply again with the same idea, or not? — Grigorii Liubachev

There is no penalty for applying more than once — in fact it can really work in your favor if you apply with the same idea and show significant progress

Q. How do you feel about the progress that YC has made on the diversity issue since you’ve been a partner? — Eric Willis

Well — I’e been a partner since November — not very long ☺ — but there are a lot of women and minority founders in this batch. I want to get those numbers much higher. Here are some stats.

Q. As a developer who wants to work and run at the early startup level/YC, but doesn’t necessarily run the ship (CEO/CTO). Is there any advice you have for getting into that space? — Zane Wolfgang Pickett

Not sure I completely understand your question — can you ask it in a different way?

Q. How many applicants are from outside the US? (if that’s even allowed, I’m not sure) — Jason

About 10–15% of the class is international. We have a lot of international applications — we welcome them and cover travel expenses if you apply from overseas

Q. Has YC ever considered starting a YC ‘minor league’ with smaller investments (thought I saw Sam mention something like that)? — Eric Willis

Eric — that hasn’t come up in our internal conversations so far — we think its important for companies to feel like they can apply to YC as early as possible

Q. Do you think we’re lacking revolutionary startups that are really going to make a difference in the world and not just another app currently? — Lauren Holliday

Lauren — I don’t — I’ve seen some really cool startups in YC — ones working on energy, self driving cars, tons of bio tech, rockets….

Q. As someone with experience in live-streaming, do you think Meerkat is a real game changer (and have you seen Periscope yet)? — Eric Willis

I think the press disproportionately writes about the products every day people use — which makes it lean more toward “apps” — but that makes sense — people like reading about what they use. My time in live video is over — I celebrate anyone trying to make that game work

Q. Has the rising cost of living in SV/SF had any impact on the quality of engineering talent? — Eric Willis

Not as far as I’ve seen — tech startups tend to have super high margins — so they can afford to pay engineers — also software engineers are the most leverage-able employees

Q. What do you, or other YC partners/alumni look for in hiring early stage developers? — Zane Wolfgang Pickett

Good question — a founder mentality — ability to work fast, not interested in building perfect things, passion for the product, willing to talk to customers, willing to work off hours, wants to commit their mind to all aspects of the business

Q. Do you ever feel like we’re all just working/investing in products that make life for the upper middle-class NA internet user better? What should founders do to combat the bias we all have towards things that make our privileged, immediate lives simpler? What advice would you give someone with significant talent at design/development of apps who wants to build things that make life for **everyone** around the world better… — David Hariri

I think people build products for themselves — I think the best way to combat this problem is to expose a much more diverse (racial, economic, religious, etc) set of people to the opportunity to start a tech startup

Q. What do you think about “We are in a tech bubble?” — Grigorii Liubachev

I think tech will be a dominant industry for the next 100 years — there will be highs and lows — but it will continue to trend up and to the right

Q. Whats the next problem you would like to solve, or see solved? — Zane Wolfgang Pickett

Honestly i think there will be some great products for people who have kids — I still see raising kids (especially under 6) as a big problem a lot of people face

Q. I’m looking to raise another round of funding at less than $1 mil valuation…VC firm looking to fund me advises I raise a convertable with a $2 min cap…but then I heard about SAFE which one is better for my 6 month old startup? In two sentences basically :p the disadvantages of both — Nicholas Sheriff

The YC safe is the best instrument for raising money. No terms to negotiate — just the cap. Also — it isnt debt. But beware of other SAFE’s, you have to read them carefully — not all the same. Also — I advise the the first money in shouldn’t buy more than 5–10% of your company, at that cap — keep the dollar amount low

Q. Do you think colleges are going to die? how long if so? — Lauren Holliday

I dont think colleges are going to die — but i dont think they do a great job of preparing people for employment (even the best ones) — i dont know what will happen in the future to solve this

Q. Do you invest in companies outside of YC? — Daniel Kempe

Very very rarely

Q. Do you plan to do another startup? — Eric Willis

Uhhh — I don’t think so but who knows — I’m only 32

Q. Is YC interested in solving that problem — the college one? — Lauren Holliday

Lol — YC doesn’t solve problems — our founders do — if you want to tackle that one you should apply and we will help

Michael.. Thanks for taking the time to meet with us. This was a great AMA… you answer questions very quickly…

Thanks — this was fun — have a great day everyone!


Next AMAs are with:

Meng To — Designer and Author of Design+Code 8pm EST March 20th

Cat Noone — Co-Founder & Design @LiberioApp. Big on side-projects. Advisor. Build meaningful things with my partner in crime @blehnert 3pm EST March 23rd


Keep an eye out on our Twitter — @MakerHunt for details/updates.

Special thanks to Michael and everyone who participated. If you’re a maker with a product on ProductHunt, be sure to sign up to participate in the AMAs and connect with others.

Already a member? Get your questions ready for the next AMAs! For any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to: @ericw, @jonas, @remco, @catnoone or @bentossell.

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